So You Can Walk the Walk, But Can You Talk the Talk?

Environmental consciousness has become one of, if not the most, important focusses of the golf industry (in my world anyways). The whole industry, from manufacturers to clubhouses and playing fields, are calculating their environmental footprint and making huge overhauls to operations in sake of efficiency and environmental quality. We are all trying to "walk the walk", but "talking the talk" can sometimes be difficult.

When it comes to communicating with the press, neighbors, community groups or even greens committees, superintendents are expected to deliver the message clearly. Tongue-tied or unprepared jabber can give an undesired and often unwarranted impression of operations. It is of great importance that when speaking of environmental issues we are prepared and confident.

One superintendent whom I look-up to in this regard is David Phipps of Stone Creek Golf Club. David has written a number of posts for Turfhugger in the past and I thought he'd be a good person to speak with, seeing that he's been featured on CNBC, GCSAA-TV, various industry stewardship case studies and has his own blog too. Communicating environmental efforts is just what this guys does, but he's pretty good at growing grass too!

So I asked David for a few speaking tips and examples, here's what he had to say...

Public speaking has never really been a strong point of mine but it has become easier the more I do it. There is no better training than from experiences. 

My first tip would be to never turn down an opportunity to speak publicly but make sure you are versed in the subject matter that you are speaking to. If not, do your research and plan ahead. If it is the spur of the moment, decline the interview but direct the media to another person that could provide the information being sought after.

If you feel that there may be opportunities to speak publicly and that includes making presentations to a greens committee, I would suggest taking a class offered by GCSAA at the conference. It is a great opportunity to practice in front of peers and to be able to get feedback on your technique. Another great source is ToastMasters. I personally have never done it but it seems to be a common thread among those that speak well.

Another tip is to watch those in our industry. My two favorites are Tim Heirs from The Old Collier Golf Club and Darren Davis from Olde Florida Golf Club. I had the privilege to watch Darren Davis  record the Golf Channel environmental vignettes in Tennessee last year. Talking about smooth. Darren has a natural presents in front of the camera and always does a great job. What I learned from Darren is to relax and smile, the rest will come naturally.

Opportunities don't just happen. If a superintendent wants to communicate something to the media start by sharing what you do. Get to know media people in your town, news paper writers etc... Make contacts and offer your service if they need information on what you are versed in. It seems self serving but what you are actually doing is promoting your industry while highlighting your accomplishments. 

I look at Tim Heirs as a true mentor. He hosts media day events at his course and invites local lawmakers and media people to see the wonderful environmental programs that he oversees. He also hosts local school children and provides them with a first hand look at the environmental benefits of a golf course. He isn't doing this for self promotion but simply for the game of golf and the industry that he is so passionate for. If you have a story that you feel needs to be told then get it out there. GCSAA is a wonderful resource. Start with Jeff Bollig, he will be able to channel your request to the appropriate outlet.

Here's a collection of David Phipps videos: